Bernard Spain

Biography

The first time Bernard Spain and his brother, Murray, saw a Dollar Tree store they had one question, “How the heck can you make any money selling things for a dollar?”Back in the 1980s, the brothers were running a successful chain of gift stores, so they opened their own “dollar store” as an experiment. “An amazing thing happened,” Mr. Spain recalls. “We sold out the inventory within a week.”

They seized the opportunity and launched the Dollar Express brand, growing to 106 stores and $200 million in annual revenues by 2000 — the year they sold to their main competitor, Dollar Tree. That was hardly the future Mr. Spain had anticipated in 1952, when he began classes at the Fox School. He studied accounting on the advice of his father, a Philadelphia grocery store owner, who told him, “As a CPA, you’ll always make a living.” Four years after graduation, however, while working for a small accounting firm, Mr. Spain remembers, “I decided I didn’t like working for other people.” He went out on his own as an accountant, and on the side he and his wife, Joan, opened up a greeting card shop in suburban Cheltenham, which would grow into a 25-store chain of Spain’s Cards & Gifts. (Bernard and Joan Spain recently celebrated their 55th wedding anniversary.) In 1991, the Spain brothers were awarded Temple University’s first-ever Entrepreneurial Excellence Award, and they currently sponsor the Grand Prize award for the annual Be Your Own Boss Bowl® (BYOBB) business plan competition. A former Fox School Entrepreneur in Residence, Mr. Spain offers this advice to aspiring entrepreneurs: “Don’t overthink it. Do it. Decide how much money you’re willing to risk, because risk and reward are directly related. Then do it when you’re young, because if you lose it all, you have the rest of your life to make it back.”

Temple University Degree
Bachelor of Science ’56, Fox School of Business
Current Title & Company
Co-founder with his brother, Murray Spain, of Dollar Express

Temple University Awards & Affiliatons

  • First-ever Entrepreneurial Excellence Award, 1991
  • Sponsor, Grand Prize of the Be Your Own Boss Bowl (BYOBB)

What I wanted to be when I was 20 years old
When I was 20, I had no idea what I wanted in life.

Best piece of advice anyone ever gave me
“Do not stay in a profession or job that you do not like.”